There isn’t anything much better on a warm Summer afternoon than exploring new-to-us territory, so we recently set out to the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery and the many miles of trails that snake along both sides of this lovely spot. By the end of our 1 1/2 hour excursion I found myself wondering why it had taken so long for us to check out this marvellous spot.
The Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery proper is dedicated to increasing populations of Pacific Salmon. It is the first of the modern enhancement programs in British Columbia, and serves as the hub for the Rosewall and Little Qualicum facilities. Tours are available for those so inclined, but our goal was to explore the hiking opportunities that abound in the area.
It took us a little bit to track down the start of what is known as the Big Qualicum Regional Trail which, essentially, is a 10 kilometre (6 1/4 mile) unused gravel access road that leads almost all the way to the Horne Lake Caves. We discovered a sign leading to the trail to the far right of the spacious parking lot and set off, wondering what the afternoon would bring.
A few minutes out in the sun and dust of the gravel road convinced us to follow the signs for the cooler and shadier Cutthroat Trail, which meanders alongside the river, past small rapids and quiet pools. We paused frequently to admire our surroundings, and eventually came upon a rustic bridge composed of a single long, sturdy log (with, thankfully, rope strung along its length to aid balance and navigation).
Across the bridge we headed along the Steelhead Trail, through shady forest, up and down several sets of well-constructed stairs and along the river bank. The serenity and beauty of this trail is all-encompassing – a lovely retreat. We eventually found our way back to the parking lot after following the trail as it abutted a chain link fence. The pathway isn’t quite as well marked at this stage, a point worth noting. The noise from an excavator working on a hatchery project also indicated that we were getting close to reaching our vehicle.
We hiked a total of 5.75 kilometres (3.6 miles) in just over 1 1/2 hours, taking our time to enjoy our surroundings and the quiet beauty of the river and the spawning channels (which, incidentally, are much more ‘natural’ than the set-up at the Little Qualicum Hatchery). This is not a difficult walk, but good shoes (and good knees to traverse the stairwells) are recommended.
Further information on the Big Qualicum Regional Trail can be found at:
The Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery is located in the Qualicum Bay area.
From the Inland Island Hwy (19), take the Horne Lake exit (75). Follow Horne Lake Road until you pass the railroad tracks and take the next left (continuing onto Horne Lake Road). On your immediate left (you will see a Big Qualicum Hatchery sign), turn onto the gravel road (River Road). Follow that down to the hatchery parking lot.
From the Island Hwy (19A), take the exit on Horne Lake Road. Take the first right onto a gravel road (River Road) and continue until you reach the hatchery parking lot.
GPS Co-ordinates for the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery are:
Lat. : 49.393766 Long.: -124.616646
49° 23′ 37.5576” N124° 36′ 59.9256” W